Thursday, October 4, 2012

My Last Race of 2012

The Self-Transcendence Ultra Classic 6 12 24 Hour Race is an annual event held at the Louis Riel Dome in Ottawa. Yes, an indoor 400 metre track.

After my trail runs this year, I was kind of looking forward to a flat, predictable run. I run better on roads and trails that are maintained although I'd rather be out on single trails in the forest at any time. Knowing this race would have a constant temperature and reliable washroom facilities made my 12 hour race seem somewhat easier to plan for.

I made a goal for myself of 65-70km in 12 hours. A few other running friends thought that 80km was doable and I actually planned to aim for that. (More about that later!). I had completed 56km in the dark in 11 hours. I did 50 km in just over 10 hours in slick mud and torrential downpours. I decided that given the nature of consistency I'd have at a track, my first goal wasn't unrealistic and knowing that I run better on such a surface, the 80km didn't seem to be too "out there" either. My only concern was that a cold had settled in my upper lungs. It didn't seem to bother my breathing but it was just "there" making me cough when I least expected it.

The morning of the race I was woke up nervous and as usual, I hadn't sleep very well. One day, I really need to figure out a way to get a good night's sleep before a race! I'd taken a variety of clothes to wear (although I have no idea why - again, the temperature and overall climate would be consistent in the dome) but I was chilled so I threw on running capris and a tank top.  I figured for sure I'd overheat at some point but right now my legs were happy with my decision. We (a running friend who was in the 24 hour race and another running friend who was there to crew for four women - poor guy!) made it to the dome with time to spare. We quickly got our aid table set up and before we knew it, the race director was calling the racers over. The starter "conch shell" went off and away we went!!Just a small issue arose after the first corner of the track. It was the start for the 24 hour race. Not the 12 hour race. Apparently, I had printed off an older version of the guidance notes when the 24 hour and 12 hour race started at the same time. This year, they had changed it so that the start times were all staggered by one hour. I chalked it up as a warm-up jog and left the track....

Actually having the extra hour worked out great. I was able to mentally get focused for this race which was one area that seemed to be missing out of my race plans all year. I changed into shorts, I visualized the turns, I decided that I'd take a bathroom break every hour, I got my mp3 player was a really LONG hour...

I was so darn ready to get going by 9 a.m.! The 24 hour participants had been going by for nearly an hour and I was chomping at the bit! A quick photo shoot of the 12 hour participants and then the conch shell announced the beginning of the 12 hour race! We were off...finally!

Now many runners, whether road or trail, will tell you that running a track is incredibly difficult mentally. Let's face it, you see the same things around and around and around for quite a long period of time.  It can get boring. It can get monotonous. And eventually, as I found out, it can hurt. A lot. But running the track taught me a lot about self-discipline and getting through the mental game. Obviously there are no hills or technical areas that will naturally slow you down, so you have to really pay attention to your body and the clock. I didn't think I was running fast until my crew member Ken was pushing out his hands at the aid station reminding me to slow down. After all, I did have to get through 12 hours. It was hard to ignore the extremely LARGE digital clock on the wall of the dome but I did manage it. I was able to have some cool conversations with people I'd never met or never had a chance to really speak with before. I really did try to make it fun for myself and it seemed to work. Earlier in the season, I mentioned that I don't smile much during a race. Well, I can honestly say that I did during this one. I just felt mentally prepared and "together".

The first six or seven hours of the race actually went very well. I was off my mark for reaching 80km by only two or three kms and I was certain I could make that up. I wasn't tired, winded, and I was doing everything correctly. My cold didn't seem to be bothering to much either. I was drinking enough, I was snacking and eating (using a new nutrition program that I LOVE), and I was still smiling and joking with people. I knew, by far, this was the best race I had been in. And then (because you know something had to happen) my left groin started to hurt. From there it was downhill (without the hills). My left ankle began to swell and I kept stopping to loosen my left shoe laces. The tendons behind both my knees began to ache. By the beginning of the eighth hour to the last lap of the race, I walked. This wasn't part of my overall race plan but there was no way I was leaving the track early either; I finished the race.

I finished with a distance of 71.6km. If my Dad were still here he would have asked what happened to the last 400m - that was my first thought when I saw my distance! All in all, I'm quite pleased with the race. It exceeded my personal goal, is the farthest I've gone to date, and it wasn't so far off the goal of 80km. I know if it hadn't been for my injuries, I could have absolutely met that 80km goal.

After physio today, I learned that I've done a number on my legs, especially my left one. Happily, it has less to do with my training and far more to do with going around, bearing left, for over seven hours. My groin is healing fine. However, the ligaments behind my knees are still swollen and they will be for another few days. They are "over-used" and need lots of time to heal (no running for three weeks!!! Noooooooo). My left ankle is actually the worse off because it took the brunt of the work from my left groin and knee. The physiotherapist thinks the entire top of my foot as well as around my ankle will bruise significantly. Can't wait to take a picture of THAT!

Oddly though, the race result and even the injuries have motivated me even more than ever. I feel like a runner. I feel like an ultra runner! My winter is going be filled with core and strength training as well as running. I know I can get better, stronger, and faster. I want to get smarter at this too. I started running to show my kids (and remind myself) that if you keep you eye on your goal, you can achieve anything. That's what I'm proving to myself and it's worth every moment!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

"Helluvamudbath" aka Haliburton Forest Trail Runs

Ever since last fall when I ran 26K at the Haliburton Forest Trail Runs, I've been dreaming about completing the 50K this year. I have no idea why other than as soon as I sat down with my kids and friends last year after the run, I decided that 50K was attainable. Which in retrospect is quite amusing considering I hurt my IT Band and hadn't trained very much. But the weather last year, oh the weather, was absolutely perfect.

365 days later.....

I was so pumped up for this year's 50K race at Haliburton. I'm not sure what it is about this race but regardless of my personal ups and downs or doubts or questions around my training, I got really excited about this race. I achieved 56K last month in a timed-event and was ecstatic about that. This race, however, was a 50K event; I had a specific distance to achieve.

Although I certainly didn't train as hard as I did for Dirty Girls, I had a base to work with and some long runs under my belt since I completed 56K. Physically I felt great - my runner's knee was almost gone, my endurance was amazing finally, and I had been eating well. Just like Dirty Girls though, my mental preparedness was weak and I really need to work on that. Funny how you go through so much physical training but tend to skip out on the mental training. And its one of the aspects of ultras that seasoned veterans will instill on you. At some point during a race or even a long run, you are talking to yourself about why you shouldn't stop, how to keep moving, and not to give up. Ok, I do anyway! The other part of that equation is that life is going to throw unexpected hurdles at your everyday stress levels regardless so its best to be as mentally prepared for getting through those too.

We woke on Saturday morning to pouring rain and cool temperatures. Luckily, I had prepared my running clothes in advance and felt confident in what I had chosen to wear; running capris, long shirt, rain jacket, and my Saucony Progrid Razors which have an attached, zipped gator. In retrospect, it didn't matter what shoes anyone wore. Our collective feet were going to get wet and muddy FAST. The one item I didn't have was a hat because hats force me to overheat and I rarely even wear one in the winter. This meant that the torrential downpours and high-wind water sheer was hitting my face or dripping down from my head most of the day!

I also wore my first hydration pack for this race and I can honestly say that I can't believe I waited this long to get one! I've run with a waist pack and with handhelds but a hydration pack for me works the best. I still have difficulty running and drinking from a handheld at the same time. I'm just not that coordinated! But the hydration pack allows for easy sips and my new pack has lots of very handy compartments within easy reach.

The pre-race line up begins with being "piped-in" to the start line...a very cool tradition and after hearing it last year from a trailer, it was pretty neat to be actually following the Bagpiper this year for the 6 a.m. start. The first 12-15kms I got through with a later time than I wanted but still within reason. Considering the weather and the MUD (I'm still not 100% sure it was mud but a dirt equivalent to sludge), I was happy with my time. After that though, I slugged through the course with soaking wet clothes, wet feet, and wet shoes. The mud was runny and slippery and it was the downhills that became dangerous (again at least for me) in some spots. I was thrilled to hit the 50km turnaround and then sheer dread set in. I had to run the same distance back.

Not long before I hit Aid Station #4 (about 34 km) on my return, I was once again contemplating not finishing. I was feeling exhausted, my ankles were starting to bother me from dodging around pools of water, mud, and oh yes, those downhills. Again, the mental factor kicked in. I kept telling myself that my kids were expecting me to text them that I'd met my goal. That once I finished I could crawl into dry clothes and sleep. Anything to keep me going! Once I got to the Aid Station though, a whole crowd of smiling, supportive faces met me and they urged me that 16 kms really wasn't that bad in the grand scheme of things; I could certainly walk it. So I sucked it up and kept going!

By the time I hit the next aid station, I was starving and this has never happened to me before. I had run out of food that I stashed in my pack. The fact is I hadn't counted on aid stations being so far apart. I simply didn't make good calculations about what I needed. I pigged out at the aid station and grabbed hot water. I still had 12 kms to go and most of that was around a lake. Between the previous aid stations, the sun had actually made a brief appearance and I was drying out. I started to speed-walk and got into a comfortable rhythm. And then the skies opened up again, the wind picked up, and the temps dropped. It was worse than the morning had been! At this point in the run though there is only one way to get back to the start/finish line - so DNFing really isn't an option.

Two more aid stations and I grabbed salty beef broth and more hot water. I was soaking wet and I heard someone mention the words "drowned rat". I kept smiling though and wondered aloud if the medal should have the customary wolf or perhaps a duck on it this year. At least my mood wasn't completely low!

By the 2K mark to the finish I got my usual burst of "almost done" energy. I have no idea where this energy comes from or how to harness it, but it exists. By the time I got to 800m from the finish line I was in a full out sprint. Which in hindsight probably just looked like a faster-than-fast walk but it felt like a sprint!

As soon as my medal went around my neck I knew what I was going to do first. I texted my kids from my car right away - Mom finished what she set out to do!

Monday, August 13, 2012


You reach a stage in your life when "firsts" don't happen as frequently as they used to. You need to make specific goals in order to get those firsts rather than rely on the momentum of life to get you there. (i.e. your first kiss vs. your first 10k).

Well, yesterday morning at around 6:15 a.m., I did it. I got to my goal of 50+ kms in a registered event. I actually completed 56 kms in total - a first for me! That is the furthest that these legs have ever taken me before. I knew I could succeed at Dirty Girls and I did just that. I ran/walked seven 8 km loops!  I didn't have a crew, no one helped me, and I didn't have a pacer (which wasn't allowed anyway for the 12 hour race). I did the entire race by myself.

I prepared well for this race. I ran. A lot. I ate the right way - no junk. I still have a problem drinking as much as I should but I did OK. (Water people, w-a-t-e-r!).

I'm going to be honest here; it was hard. Besides childbirth, it was the hardest thing I have ever done. I was mentally and emotionally fragile before the race. I wasn't sure I had trained enough. But the added stress of a full "night run" really kicked in. Running at night, even with flashlights, is not the same as running during the day.

Case in point, I fell twice during the first three loops. And not just one of those "oops, I tripped but regained my balance before I actually landed" kind of falls. We're talking full on hit the dirt with every part of my body. I was actually lucky during both falls. I landed on my left side first and my right side second. No scraped knees or major cuts. My upper left arm, which took the brunt of the first fall, is sore today. And my right knee is pretty swollen. After the last fall though I scared myself because I was completely alone. I decided that running was probably not a good idea until I hit the road portions of the race. Looking back it was probably one of the smartest moves I made. I fell on my right side and left side so the next fall would have probably been a face plant!

After my falls, I slowed way down. I had twelve hours to get to 56 kms so there was no rush. And if I really injured myself then getting to the goal would have been jeopardized. The 8km loop is a real mix of nicely flat, runnable sections with a few (ha!) rooty sections to force you to focus on what you are doing. There are at least two "swearable" hills to climb. The last major one called "A Runner's Pain" is just that. It starts out as a nice, meandering climb and then turns into the steep end of hell. I hated it but loved it too because I knew once I got to the top of that hill that I was only about 2 1/2 kms away from the start/finish. It's a great motivator!

Although the second and third loops had my falls, I would have to say that the fifth and sixth loop were the most mentally challenging for me. I was tired. I was hungry but nothing seemed appetizing. I was mentally drained. Funny thing though because as my brain was pointing out all the reasons to stop, my body just kept going. It simply over-rode all the negativity and just kept moving. There's something to be said for kicking on "autopilot". Around the same time I looked up through the trees and was shocked. The stars were out. The moon had begun to rise and there was some light in the forest. It had rained nearly non-stop for 48 hours before the 12 hour race and now it was clear and breathtakingly beautiful.

By the time I finished my last and final loop, the world was waking up. Unlike other races, there wasn't anyone at the finish line to hug me or take a photo - my kids stayed behind with my parents. But the race director was there with a ton of support and good wishes! It was a rather surreal moment. Part of me wanted to squeal with delight and the other half wanted to fall down and sleep. Part of me wanted to run around yelling "look at me! look at me!" and another was already mapping out the drive home to bed.

I will tell you this; such a huge allotment of time alone gives one an opportunity to think about a lot of things:

a) You know the whole "if a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound?" question. Well, I'm pretty sure I answered it. When I fell, I heard the "oof" come out of my mouth. Pretty darn sure that a tree makes a lot more noise though.

b) Roots are a LOT bigger at night than during the day. They stick out a lot higher too. Not sure if they are trying to trap objects for consumption but I swear they melt back into the ground as soon as the sun rises.

c) Never, and I mean, never lift your white water bottle to your mouth so that your headlamp shines off of it. Instant blindness. Only took me about 8 or 10 times to remember this.

d) The one nice thing about starting a race so far behind the 24 and 48 hour races is that you actually pass people. Damn it, but that feels really good for a change!

e) Leaves hold a great deal of rain water. A slight breeze can bring what feels like a short shower even hours after a rainfall, so you know those leaves are holding a LOT of water!

I love the Dirty Girls race. There are many participants but the race feels small. The support is just amazing! Everyone from Diane Chesla, the race director, to all the volunteers are so welcoming and incredibly kind. I like it because you know what to expect; it's a consistent race. The trails are well-marked, the condition of the trail is awesome (even with all the rain we had), and the aid stations are fully stocked with everything one could want.

So what's next? I have one more race for the 2012 season. I'm starting to dread fall! I am doing the 50 km race at the Haliburton Forest Trail Race. After that, I may try and find some smallish road races to carry me through to spring.  I think I'll try and join a running group over the winter too - it would be good to run with people who will push me hard. For now though, I have less than four weeks to get ready for another 50 km!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Getting Ready to get Dirty...

I am two weeks away from attempting my first 50 km in a registered race!

OK. I feel better now; for the moment anyway.

 Dirty Girls is a fabulous trail race; extremely well-organized, a laid-back feel, and slightly more "girlie" than other races. It's also an 8 km loop with three aid stations (including the start/finish) which gives me added confidence. I ran there last year and it was my first 6 hour race.

This year, I'm going for 12 hours. My hope is to run the loop seven times.....yes, seven. Now when I say run, understand that I will probably walk quite a bit of it too. But the ultimate goal this year is to finish with 50+ km so I'm hoping 12 hours will give me enough better! Of course, like any trail race, it has its own set of interesting hurdles. For instance, the 12 hour race starts at 8 pm at night...yes, I'll be running in a forest, through the night, with a headlamp. But I won't be alone as there is a crazier group running for 24 hours and an even more insane group running for 48 hours. Although it will be kinda cool to be able to run with some people I never see because usually my races are so much shorter. Everything is timed so that the 12 hour, 24 hour, and 48 hour races all end at 8 am Sunday morning.

I'm in full out training mode right now. I honestly don't think I've worked this hard for anything athletic in my entire life. Oh wait, I've never really participated in anything this athletic my entire life. Bad example....but I am training! After Limberlost I was discouraged for about three days and then this sense of motivation came over me and I've been running, running, running. I've also been eating about 90% better. My life is filled with protein, veggies, bananas, watermelon and LOTS of water, etc. Oatmeal in the morning, protein at lunch and dinner.  I haven't been this focused in quite awhile!

I'm not entirely sure its making a difference yet because it has only been two weeks or so. But I've lost five pounds (which is always nice!) and I'm sleeping through the night again. I need to eat every two hours so I'm consciously putting my stuff in my purse to eat when I'm out; that way I won't be tempted to stop for fast food. My runs are getting better and longer. My legs are hardly sore when I finish or the next day when I get up in the morning.

My boys are making sure I stay on top of my running too. At some point in the day one of them will ask "Mom, when are you running today?" which is usually followed by "How far are you going to go?" They are watching me like two little hawks!

I want to break through to the "other" side and finish 50 km - an ultra-marathon distance. This is hugely important to me because it's for me.  I want to be able to do something that seems out of reach but IS attainable with some hard work and dedication. I need to prove to myself that I can be the person I want to be.

I will accomplish my goal! GO ME!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Shut the Front Door...I DNF'd!!!

My first DNF. Oh how it sucks. I'm starting to think that Limberlost is going to become my great white whale. I'd like to blame the weather (it was stinking, gross hot), I'd most certainly love to blame the trail (it is really difficult but the most beautiful one I've tried), I could blame the bear (but I imagine he was getting a good chuckle at all the stupid humans running in crazy heat) but in reality the responsibility of my DNF falls on my own shoulders. Damn it.

Like so many race before it, I know I will look back on this and continue to learn from it but the DNF stings. I signed up for 28 km and only got one loop done. I was hot, tired, miserable, negative, emotional, miserable, and did I mention miserable?? I had zero pain. Nothing. The one race where I can honestly say I had no pain; go figure. No cramping, no charlie horses, no stiff neck, no lead feet. My legs were the best they felt in months. Heck, I finished 25 km in Sulphur Springs with a bad knee and back.

So what happened? Honestly, it was the combination of little things that got in my way. Or that I allowed to get in the way. And most of them were emotional which are even worse to try and get through.

I had every intention of eating well leading up to the race and I didn't eat poorly but I certainly did not eat enough. With all the training I was putting in the past two weeks I was becoming hungry a lot more and instead of grabbing a snack, I'd put off eating until I hit a mealtime. I'd be starving by 10pm but too lazy to grab a banana downstairs. I had every intention of hydrating well knowing that the weekend was going to be crazy hot. I'm really bad for hydrating generally speaking and I missed the mark last week for sure.

Friday was a mish-mash day of every task getting pushed later and later to the point that we barely got the tent up in time with natural light at the campsite; and it was compounded by the fact that it was my sons' first time camping. It felt like a scramble all day. Too much going on and not enough planning on my part. I had a list on hand but I kept adding to it and then it just became a "top-of-mind" list trying to pack for three. I couldn't relax on Friday night and stupidly went straight to bed not even getting my running gear set up for the next morning, which is what I usually do. I can honestly say, I was lucky if I got two hours sleep that night.

So by Saturday morning I was physically and mentally exhausted.  That normal rush of race-day adrenaline never kicked it. My kids were excited to see me start but I basically sauntered up to the starting line praying I had everything I needed. I could barely muster a smile. Everyone else's enthusiasm didn't even stir anything inside of me. I was t-i-r-e-d. I got 3 km into the race and kept hoping for some surge of energy. Something that would at least register to my brain that all systems were go and 28 km were possible. Never happened.

By 8km out of the 14k loop, I was already thinking about DNF'ing. The 14 km race participants, who started 20 mins after the 28 km participants, were passing me. Normally this doesn't bother me but I was discouraged. By the 10km mark I knew I was going to DNF. The food at the aid stations were well stocked but nothing seemed appetizing; my body was so tired that food didn't even help motivate me. I tried to talk myself out of it by remembering that my kids were there and they shouldn't see their mother quit. I reminded myself that I paid for the 28k race so I would be giving myself the monetary-shaft. I mentally rubbed my shoulders and suggested to myself that walking the next loop was nothing to be ashamed of as long as I finished. Nothing worked. I swallowed back a whole lot of tears and just trudged on. I knew that if the waterworks started, I'd be stuck in the forest behind a tree for awhile (and with my luck I'd have met up with the bear). Bad enough I was as slow as I was without giving myself another reason to stop.

As I saw the finish line and my kids and Scott all waving with big smiles on their faces and lots of encouragement for loop number two,  I felt really guilty. I took of my number, told them I couldn't do another lap, and officially DNF'd. I wanted to dig a hole, crawl in, have a good cry and sleep. I never did though. My younger son was "starving" at 11:20 a.m. and I had to switch to "Mommy-mode" instantly.

So, there you have it; what I hope to be my first and last DNF story. Some key elements out of this race that I have learned:
  1. The mental side of running is huge. If you're head isn't in the race than it just makes the battle that much harder to win. I've had plenty of runners tell me that before but it didn't sink in until yesterday.
  2. Eat and hydrate. Eat and hydrate. Eat and hydrate. I get it.
  3. Follow a normal routine the night before the race. It will help your body get ready for the next morning.
  4. There's no shame in a DNF. There's always another race.
And mine is Dirty Girls. I have a month to train, both mentally and physically, to get to my personal goal of 50 km. I will NOT DNF. I don't care if I have to crawl!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

You Never Forget Your First

I've come full circle in running this year; hard to believe its been a year since my very first 10 km race! Oddly, it didn't come with a medal but I still have my first race bib and a t-shirt to prove I ran it and finished it.

The Sulphur Spring Trail Race will always have a special place in my heart! It was an event of firsts - first time I ran a race, first time I watched and crewed Scott and Ken, first time I met my friend MaryLou (who is inspirational to me), and first time I watched the camaraderie of the ultra marathon community. As long as this race exists, I plan on participating one way or another every year!

This year I chose to do the 25 km race. Not unlike the Chocolate Race last month I didn't have high expectations of myself. I hadn't trained much at all and the week leading up to the race was bad for sleep, bad for water intake, and I was getting over a very bad chest cold.  All in all, not a good set up for success. But as I kept reminding myself...a) I paid for it b) it was the 20th anniversary of the race this year and they were giving medals to everyone and I really, really wanted one c) even if I walked the whole race, I was still going to finish it!

If there was a time where the weather did a complete 180 degree switch, it was for this race. Last year's race was cool, foggy, and very wet and muddy. It was NOT a pleasant experience. This year however, was hot and sunny and the trails were so dry that it was like pounding the pavement in many areas. I still prefer the hot and sunny to the cool and wet conditions though. This is when I really appreciate trail running though - even if its hot and sunny, the canopy of the trees and bushes do protect you from the constant onslaught of the sun.

The race takes place in the beautiful forested Dundas Conservation Area in Ancaster, ON (just north of Hamilton). I'm going to try and go back this year and do a very slow run (ok, slower than even what I normally do or hiking at a brisk pace) and actually stop to take in the scenery. There were many times I'd slow down because the ravines or meadows were just breathtaking and then I'd remember to get my ass in gear because I was in the middle of a race! (Hello? McFly!!??)

The 100 and 50 milers (which was everyone else in our group BUT me) started their race at 6 a.m. It was good to get out early before the heat got to be too much. The 25 and 50 km race started at 7:30 a.m. and I was so glad for this because I was pretty much a walking idiot trying to help Scott get ready, never mind me. Once I was alone, I was able to try and collect myself and worry about what I needed. Needless to say, I still forgot to bring salt and Advil but I was able to get my shoes on, laced up, handhelds ready, and my bib pinned on.

When the race finally began, I was at the back of the pack with every intention of just hanging back and letting the fast people out first. I must say, this was the easiest part of the race as it seems everyone was faster than me! I saw Scott and Lisa coming in the other direction during my 5 km spur, near the halfway point, and apparently Lisa commented to Scott that I didn't look too comfortable. I never look comfortable. My face goes beat red every time I run, I sweat profusely and it takes 2.5-3 kms before I stop questioning why I do this to myself and find some sort of rhythm!

I did something smart again during this race - I found someone who was running at a comfortable pace and I fell in behind them. I'm sure she wasn't too impressed with the feeling of being followed but it helped me enormously. I still have a hard time finding a pace for myself but I've found that if I can follow someone, I can pick up their pace and keep going myself. This worked for quite a bit of the race actually. There were times that I'd pass this other racer because she'd stop at an aid station or she'd pull ahead of me because I'd have to stop to walk up a hill but somehow I'd still be able to meet up with her after 10 or 15 mins.

By the 15-17th km I was feeling pretty good about the race. I was comfortable, I hadn't stopped much to walk,and I wasn't stopping at aid stations except to grab some Heed as I went by. And then it happened. I walked up a rather steep hill and started to run down the other side. All I could feel was a sudden crunch in my knee and I knew my IT band issue was back (or so I thought). I chose to ignore it for awhile but it didn't take long before every downhill was filled with excruciating pain. Eventually, I was forced to walk. I was able to jog every now and then through some very flat parts but even that hurt. Man, was I pissed off! I honestly felt like I had been running my first really strong race and then to experience an injury like that set me off into a spiral of "I hate running", "I'm going to pull myself out", "I'm never doing this again". It wasn't pretty.

I had to get my head out of my brain. Luckily, I brought my MP3 with me on the run, turned on my '80's rock playlist, set the volume a lot louder than I should and let Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, and Heart drown out the self-deprecating comments.  Of course, this also helped me get into a good walking pace.

Just over 3 1/2 hours after the race began, I finished. I crossed that damn finish line. I'm pretty sure I jogged across it smiling but I can't honestly remember. I got my medal, grabbed a water bottle, and went to sit in the shade. It wasn't the way I wanted to run the race or finish but I did finish it. In the end I realized that I must have been running at a strong pace until my IT incident. Which gives me faith that I'm getting stronger and better and motivates me to keep trying.

Will I run the 50 km race next year at Sulphur? Who knows! I swore to myself last year that I'd never do anything longer than a 10 km race....

And on a side note - apparently, my IT Band issue has nothing to do with my IT band being injured. My lower back is the problem and its putting strain and pain on my IT Band. I'm hoping that the physio I'm doing with the new sets of stretches I have to do everyday will help solve some of these running problems.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Chocolate Race!

Can you have a better name for a race? I think not! And it WAS chocolately...very, very chocolately!

So after my last post about realistic goals and doing shorter distances and motivating myself to do better with better times....I ran my personal best time in 10 kms! Wahoo! Yay me! Pats self on back!!! Talk about surprising myself! I hadn't run at all in nearly a month. The only good thing I had done for myself was the cleanse. But there you go - you never know what might work. As Scott told me before after the race - perhaps that one month of no running was just a really long taper before this race!

Maybe it was because I didn't set any expectations of myself but I found it easier to fall into a good pace with other runners and just stay with them long enough to push past them with some energy. I kept reminding myself to pull my shoulders back and that allowed me to fill my lungs better during the entire race. By the time I was nearly 500m from the finish line, I had ample energy left to sprint to the end. This was probably the most relaxed I've been in a race yet.

So enough accolades about my amazing accomplishment...oh wait, that should be self-accolades...and more about the CHOCOLATE.....

There was chocolate everywhere.....really. During the race there were the usual aid stations with water/gatorade and chocolate stations; skewers with chocolate covered marshmallows and strawberries. They looked so good but I couldn't try one. Just the thought of trying to ingest that while running was enough for me to yell "Gatorade"!.

After the race though....HELLO Chocolate! I loved the set up - finish, get medal, line up for chocolate croissant and chocolate milk. Again, once I'd finished I really didn't feel like anything heavy but they looked very good!

I''m pretty sure at this point the majority of my friends have completely fallen over in their chairs wondering what the hell has happened to their chocolate-loving friend. Fear not! I did not miss out; there was more chocolate to come. Scott and I walked up to the Main Street where there were chocolate truffles, chocolate brownies, and....wait for it.....wait a little more.....chocolate Martinis available for the runners (for free!!). Heck with the medal....the chocolate was more than worth it. (OK, not really 'cause I really love my medal!).

And yes, the course was just perfect too. It was, after all, a beautiful day by Lake Ontario and although it was a bit cool it certainly didn't take long to warm up once the running began. I was enormously impressed but the organization, the volunteers, and just the overall fun feeling at the race. If anyone is interested in doing a 5 km, 10 km or 10 mile walk/run next year, I would highly recommend The Chocolate Race .

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Reviewing My Running Goals

My cleanse is done and beyond the obvious physical benefits, I feel I have also had some clarity of mind.

I've always had a bad habit of jumping into something with both feet. Or running before I could walk. <Insert a number of possible running colloquialisms here.> I've always loved running but I have a major motivation issue. If I don't feel or see instant gratification I tend to become less motivated. I love my three running medals that I achieved last year but I haven't been motivated to run like I was last year. (See hit a wall blog a few months back.)

I've been trying to dissect and analyze the reasons why - at least my psych degree is coming in handy for something. I had a good session with myself this past weekend. Luckily it was completely internal and my id, ego, and super ego fought a good battle amongst each other. Here's what I've figured out:

a) I simply cannot run the long distances my partner and his friends run. For now.
  •  Trying to keep up with them is crushing my feelings of accomplishment and demotivating me entirely too much. Not their fault in the least; my own for thinking that I could jump into 12 hour and 50 km races too soon.
b) Very few people start out running with goals greater than 25 km.
  • The more I read up and actually talk to runners about their accomplishments, the more I've realized that I need to be humble, start small and work my way up in length of races.
c)  I'll be far more motivated if I start with smaller distances.
  • If my goals are shorter distances then I can gradually improve my times; thus I am motivated to run more.
  • Once my times improve and I feel comfortable with my distances and times I can move on to longer runs and races.
Really, this is the route I should I have taken from the beginning. I'd probably be farther ahead than I am now. But live and learn.

So new goals (sort of). I will run 10 kms in 50 mins or less before moving onto a half-marathon. I will find 10 kms races and train for those. Once I feel I have successfully met my goals in 10 km races, I will move onto half-marathons (21 kms). And so on until I get to a full marathon distance (approximately 42 kms). Once I have settled into that, then I can look at ultra distances. Once I'm training for half-marathons and full marathons I should be able to keep up to my ultra friends when they are training.

There you have it. I am a humble runner who has chosen to take this one kilometer at a time. I have to feel successful before I can move on. It may take me years to get to the ultra running distances but when you set your goals too high and they seem unattainable and out of reach, the desire to meet them becomes a deterrent rather than an incentive.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spring Cleanse - Day 12

Three more days to go. Not that I'm counting. I'm actually rather despondent about the cleanse ending. I'm worried I'll fall back into bad habits. I'm worried I'll stop drinking the huge amounts of water I should be drinking. Last night I was thinking about what to eat on Sunday morning with the boys - pancakes? waffles? bacon? And then perhaps around 5 p.m. in the afternoon I will open a lovely Pouilly Fuse and have a glass of wine...

But then I gave my head a good shake and reminded myself of this past Sunday. My man and a running friend finished their 100-mile races Sunday morning. (He did great by the way!!). Another friend was pacing so she was up most of the night and ran 20 miles with him. I was the only one who got some sleep and it was variable at best. By noon, we were piled into the car and heading off on our 12 hour drive home and it was me behind the wheel. I ate very well all weekend and kept on the cleanse but I was seriously worried about staying focused on the drive home. We stopped at Starbucks and I grabbed a coffee and a blueberry scone.

I'm not sure if it was the coffee or the scone or both but the "buzz" that flew through my head scared the living &^%# out of me. It felt as though my head was in a vice-like grip of searing numbness (yes, I realize that seems like an oxymoron but bear with me). You know how your arm feels when you hit your funny-bone; that zinging sensation? That's what my head felt like for about two straight hours. It wasn't a pleasant feeling and I'm pretty sure it was the sugar. This made me realize the effect that sugar really can have on you and how one's body becomes "addicted" to it. My sleep has been amazing on this cleanse and my energy seems to be steady during the day and evenings rather than spiking and falling.

The one thing I will have to deal with though is increasing my intake of healthy carbs again - I haven't been fuelling my body properly for running lately and I need to. But I'm going to take my time and make sure I'm fuelling with the best carbs I can.

This whole process has been a huge eye-opener for me. I love food and I hate thinking about it in the context of simply a fuel. The fact is though that food affects everything we do, who we are, how we feel, how we live. Through food we can make positive or negative changes in our lives. Sure, it does take some willpower but feeling better overall is an excellent and sustaining reward. I want to be strong, sleep well, have energy, and be healthy.

A cleanse is a very easy way to take a good look at yourself and the choices you have been making. It pushes you to make healthy choices and gives you the vision of a better future. Who knows what I'll be eating a month from now but I really hope that I'm eating (and drinking) the same way I am now. I really don't want to go back to that bloated, low energy, sluggish person. And if I do...I give you permission to give me a quick kick in the butt!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Spring Cleanse - Day Six

I'm almost halfway through my first cleanse! Yay and boo hiss!

Yay because I've stuck to it. Boo hiss because I'm actually starting to enjoy it (yes, in an odd way) a lot and its going to end in 8 days.

My coffee addiction has taken a backseat in the past few days. I no longer crave it. I certainly miss my morning cup of joe but I've realized that my morning coffee is more about habit than about anything else. That being said, I have made the decision that if and when I return to coffee ('cause, who is kidding whom) I'll be ordering a small coffee. No need for these bigger-than-life cups anymore. I want to enjoy a hot cup of coffee and not try to guzzle an extra-large so its warm down to the bottom.

The other new item is my craving for sugar items has diminished greatly. As much as I love chocolate, when I'm stressed or down I tend to turn to pure candy. Usually sour gummie-bears or swedish berries or jelly beans. That was really hard to deal with over Easter weekend but I managed it well. I miss the taste of something sweet like that in my mouth but I don't go looking for it anymore. Bananas have become my best friends again. I used to eat them constantly as a child and occasionally as an adult but now, they are my candy bar of choice!

Drinking water all the time has been hard to get used to. I like a glass of orange juice on occasion and I really miss a nice glass of wine or beer at dinner sometimes. But again, I've dealt with it. And I'm pretty sure its part of the reason my bloated body has resumed its normal shape. The other benefit is that my skin looks great and my dry skin is getting better. I'm eating in a much healthier way. I didn't eat that poorly before but I've realized I haven't been eating that well either.

Speaking of which, here's an interesting case study...for about 8 months now I've had a skin rash on my right shin that I've been unable to get rid of. True, having a doctor look at would have probably helped by now but I've been busy - so sue me. Its crazy itchy, uncomfortable and doesn't always look pleasant (even with panty hose on). It was starting to flare up again over the past few weeks. HOWEVER, since I started this cleanse it hasn't been itchy at all. As a matter of fact, I just looked down at it and its not red at all. Its nearly completely healed; doesn't even have a rash pattern anymore. Coincidence? I think not.

And last, but not least, has been the change to my constant state of fatigue; specifically after work.  I would get home from work (with or without my boys) and I was exhausted. I mean really, really tired. Both mentally and physically. Cooking was work. Laundry was work. Cleaning up after dinner was a LOT of work. By the time 8 p.m. came along I was done. I was a walking talking blob of blah. For the past two nights, however, I've been OK. Not with an enormous amount of extra energy but OK. Enough energy to get those items listed taken care of and still have energy afterward. Honestly, if this cleanse had just given me this extra energy, I would have been thrilled. And it has, with all the other bonus items too.

So far, so good. This weekend is going to be a good test of my will power. My man Scott ( is going for buckle number FOUR in as many months in Pekin, IL. I'm going too and will be crewing mostly but I might be pacing as well. Aid stations for ultra-marathon races tend to be filled with both good stuff and bad stuff (chips, jelly beans, chocolate, coke, etc. for quick doses of energy). If I run, I won't be able to take gels or anything like that with me because the sugar contents are very high. I have to be good; very, very good. But with all the amazing changes that have happened in the past 6 days, I have little desire to fall back now.

I can't wait to see what positive changes will happen to my body over the next four days. Regardless of my "flu day", this cleanse has been simply amazing (so far!).

Monday, April 9, 2012

Spring Cleanse - Day Three

The first day of the cleanse went pretty well. Nothing odd although I really, really, really, REALLY missed my morning cup of coffee ALOT! I probably drank more water than I have in the past month. So there were numerous bathroom breaks involved in my day's activities. I ended up with a headache towards the end of the day which I'm sure was a combination of lack of caffeine and just being tired.

That night I took my first "night cleanse" pills. Holy-flu-like-symptoms Batman! I spent the rest of the night with hot flashes, getting chills, and my headache got even worse! I was ready to call it quits altogether! By 4 a.m. I was seriously considering putting an entire pot of coffee on and just guzzling caffeine just to stop the pounding in my head! But I held off.

By the time the kids were begging for breakfast at 9:30 a.m., I rolled out of bed and considered heading to a local hospital to get my stomach pumped of these vile herbs and concoctions that were supposed to be making me "feel better". Instead, I did as any good mother would do. I popped frozen pancakes in the toaster, moaned about my lack of coffee, reassured myself that my symptoms were normal, and took my morning cleanse pills. Then I prayed for 12 noon to arrive faster than normal so I could go back to bed after the kids' father picked them up for Easter dinner with his family.

And that's what I did for most of Day Two of my cleanse. I slept. I went to the bathroom. I drank water. A lot of water. I dreamt about coffee, about triple-layer chocolate fudge cake, even about a simple protein bar.  When the boys got home, we all promptly went to bed. I took half my nightly dose of night cleanse pills (which I can do - I read the pamphlet!!). I had a much better night's sleep - not perfect but better.

Which brings us to Day Three. I woke up gloriously without a headache this morning. I went to the bathroom to wash my face and I was completely shocked about what I saw. My face wasn't bloated. My eyes weren't puffy underneath. And let's just say that they usually are around this time. Even my eyes seemed a bit brighter. Obviously, it could be just the amount of water I'm drinking but it was a motivating change to see! I went downstairs and happily consumed my cleanse pills, had my breakfast, and went on with my day. I still pined for my morning cup of coffee but I was OK about it.

Now I'm looking forward to what the next few days will bring. I just hope that the flu-like symptoms are over now. I have little desire to experience that again!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Spring Cleaning

I've started to run again. Still not as much as I would like to but the running bug has bitten me again and I can't wait to get outside. I'm having issues finding the time to run again but I've also just moved so my schedule seems tighter than normal.

Excuses, excuses....ok, I know!

I also recently made the decision to attempt a "cleanse". I did my research (for those who know me, that shouldn't be a surprise) extensively on the topic. I weighed out the pros and cons (no wine, alcohol, beer, COFFEE, dairy, etc.) and in the end decided that the potential health benefits were too many to ignore.

I'm hoping to achieve a few things from this cleanse. A better overall feeling, less fatigue, less bloating, and a cleaner, healthier colon! And of course I'd like to think this will help my running by increasing my energy.

So here I am on day one. I've been told the first 3-5 days are the most difficult so I'm bracing myself. So far so good. I should probably take the 4 or 5 Heinken that are still in my fridge out so there is less temptation to crack one open in the midst of my upcoming "difficulties".

I have and haven't picked the best two weeks to do this cleanse. (Is anything ever simple in my life?). The next eight days is passover and I'm not supposed to be eating anything "leavened" anyway. So no bread, cookies, cakes, etc. Made good sense to me to start a cleanse when many of the exclusions are already excluded!  Next weekend will be 100-miler race number four for my amazing man Scott. I'm hoping I can keep the cleanse going over the weekend. There will be so many temptations to eat whatever is there and drink coffee to stay awake! So, I'm hoping those that are crewing with me, will also keep me in line! (hint, hint!)

One of the other items I am supposed to do on this cleanse is exercise. Now I must run. Its part of the daily regime! No excuses!

I'm going to blog about my cleanse every few days. A few good friends are interested in how things go. I won't go into specifics so that others are not grossed out! LOL!

Friday, February 24, 2012

I've Hit a Wall and It Ain't Pretty

My name is Michelle and I'm a procrastinator.
<Hello Michelle>
 It's been two weeks since I last ran.

This sounds a lot better in my head than reading it and I don't want anyone to think I'm demeaning any 12-step program. But I am admitting that I've hit a major obstacle during my training. More like a virtually unscalable, 16 foot high, 8 foot in depth concrete wall that has been covered in electrical fence.

I could blame the weather but it hasn't really been that bad. I could blame the constant feeling of being tired but I'm a mother and a full-time employee so like that's ever going to change. I could blame Scott for not dragging my ass out with him but I did tell him not to harp on me so much. I could blame my schedule but I've been told that there are hours available, previous to my traditional wake-up time, that are presently sitting empty.

So there is no one to blame but myself.

Of course, this "blame thy self" becomes a vicious circle though. I don't run therefore I chastize and ridicule myself (you idiot, you missed a perfectly good night to run 5 kms); which makes me feel worse (you know you are going to gain weight); which demoralizes my intentions (why am I bothering to do this? you aren't an athlete so why pretend you are? You can't do this so quit now); which leads me to the next day (I promise I will run 5kms tomorrow and make it up to myself...yeah, right!). And so on and so forth until two weeks later and I have to write about it because I'm so fed up with myself.

I know all I need to do is get changed, put on my running shoes, plug in my mp3 player (I haven't bitten into the Apple Assault yet) and just do it. I know all that. So why am I taking this time to blog instead of taking this time to run?

I'm scared. Yup. Pretty simple and basic but I'm scared. Scared of failing. Scared of looking like an idiot. Scared of disappointing myself. I mean really, that's all procrastination is - the fear of moving forward not knowing if success or failure awaits you. Its a lot easier to wait something out and not fail than plow ahead and fall on your face. I'd rather self-loathe than embarrass myself.

I have a bad habit of comparing myself to others. I want to be as good as other runners I know now. I forget that even they had to start somewhere and build up distance, endurance, and speed. I simply expect that I can do what they can do in two or three weeks of training. Wait, I can't?

<Enter hand smacking back of head>

I have set some pretty hefty goals for myself for 2012. The fact is if I don't start back on my training path I'm never going to succeed at a 50 km trail race in September. Heck, I may not get through 42 km at Limberlost in July. And I've paid for all these races in advance. Not only that, but I told Scott that I want to be able to pace him during his last loops of the 100-mile races I am able to attend.

Fear of  Disappointment (in myself and potentially projected by others) = Procrastination. Sadly, a math equation I understand without extra help.

So back to the basics I go. I'm running to get fit. I'm running to show my boys that goals aren't about winning or losing but about attaining the dream. I'm running to prove to myself that I can do the things I never thought I could do. I'm running to be mentally strong. I'm running because it makes me feel so damn good when I finish.

It's time to face the wall and take a leap of faith. Here's hoping I don't get zapped.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Yesterday afternoon Scott sent me an interesting question from one of the groups he belongs to on Facebook. Basically, the question was whether or not one could call themselves an "ultrarunner" if they had only completed one 50 km event. (An ultrarunning event is usually considered 50km+ or anything longer than a marathon).

I'm not entirely sure why but this has been niggling at me for nearly 24 hours now, but I have some theories.

I've always thought that running shouldn't be about labels - hence the motto I follow "I'm not in it to win it, I'm in it to finish it".  I realize for some that goal-setting might be about breaking records or being "first" but even then the goal itself shouldn't be the label "Betty Bluejeans - Number One Woman Finisher at Blistering Blisters 100-mile Race". The goal should be about the overall finishing time; those personal bests that just might bring a placed finish.

What about those who run just to run? If they have been doing 50 km runs on a Saturday purely for enjoyment or helping a buddy who is in training or because they want to prove to themselves that they can push their bodies that far, does that mean they are NOT ultrarunners? Why does a registered event need to be the means to be recognized? Think of it this way - do you really need a university degree to prove you're intelligent because I've known a number of university graduates who are not!

Of course, this does bring me back to my own status. I've entered 6 races this year. They range from a six-hour race to a 10 mile race to my ultimate goal of a 50 km race. Why do I need these races at all? I need the goal (because if I've paid for it, then there's no turning back!!) and I need to prove to myself that I'm not completely inept doing something athletic. I'm not trying to win any races. I want to finish all these races so I can look back one day and reflect that I did it. I entered, I ran a race, and I finished it. If I place at any time (she says laughing and shaking her head) then wow, what an amazing feat that would be, but doing MY best is the goal. When I look at my name on the list, I'm not looking at my finishing place (which right now is usually near the bottom) but at the time or distance. That, for me, is the bar.

And maybe, just maybe, if others were "allowed" to call themselves half-marathon runners, or marathon-runners, or ultrarunners without spending the money to be in an event, there might be more people tying up their shoelaces and trying to prove to themselves, not others, that anything is possible when you set a goal.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

First Race of 2012 Completed!

So many elements made this race the best one ever! I'm not sure if the run-gods were finally pleased with the sacrifices I made (starting to eat for running and training on a more consistent schedule) or if I was just mentally prepared more than any other race or if it was the fact that it was the first race where someone crewed for ME (thanks Ken!) but everything came into alignment for six hours. I've never started or finished a race with a smile on my face but it happened!

Keep in mind that I'm not in these races to win or break any astounding records (except my own). The longest run I'd accomplished before this race was at Dirty Girls last year and I ran 30 kms. I was pretty darn proud of myself then. My last race was at Haliburton in September and I completed 26 kms. So I figured a goal of 31 kms on a track at York University was doable - and it would be a personal best for me.

Things I know worked for me before the race included days of drinking lots and lots of water (although I could have done without the trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night), eating well leading up to the race (no beer or wine...that was harsh AND concentrating on eating protein, which wasn't so harsh), and having a big bowl of stove-top oatmeal the morning of the race (love my porridge).

Things that I know worked for me during the race include drinking a LOT of water (also ended up with a number of bathroom breaks during the race but I got to sit for about 30 seconds....ha ha), eating during the race (LOVE Hammer Perpetuem Solids, Ken kept handing me clementines, I ate zero junk during the race), and my decision to run every 4 out of 5 laps (each lap was 230 meters) and walking one lap. That one lap enabled me to drink and eat and not lose a lap in between. It gave my legs (and buttocks) a much needed break too.

I also got a ton of support from those running past me. And trust me, just about everyone was running past me but that was OK. I mean, its not like I was threat to anyone trying to get as many laps in as possible in 6 hours!!! SO many smiling faces, supportive comments, and genuinely kind people. Runners are just amazing! Women I look up to (Marylou and Maryka), my man who still commented to the world that I was sexy even when I know I wasn't looking so great (Scott), and so many others were there to put a smile on my face and give me an extra dose of energy.

I also added one new element (which is a mineral so pardon the pun) that seems to have helped enormously - Magnesium. I'm not going to preach about magnesium's incredible properties or why it is as helpful as it has been for me. That what Google and research is for. But here is what I know - I sprayed magnesium oil on my legs before and during the run yesterday. I have no pain in them today. None. My knees don't ache, my quads are fine, my calves are good. The two areas I didn't spray (my hips and buttocks) are a mess today. Sure, it could be completely psychosomatic but I've been using the spray in the morning and before bed for a few weeks now during training and I've had very little pain at all. And it is better than relying on Advil!

So how did I do? Are you sitting down? I surpassed 31 kms at hour 5 and 15 mins (yay me!!)  And then Ken wondered out loud if I could make it to 35 kms....damn....I hate those comments (not really because I respond better to a goal, remember?).  So for the next 45 mins I walked and ran as fast as my legs would take me. At the sixth hour, the finish of the race, I had completed 35.81 kms. Annnddd....I didn't come in last!!

I had perma-grin on my face for the rest of the day! Talk about a runner's high!! Funny how anything seems possible when you exceed your own goals!

I've got two days off for rest and then I'm back to my regular training schedule. Man, those 4 kms on Tuesday are going to feel like a walk in the park....I hope!!